EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

Sweden: SAS employees sue company trade union

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Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) was both directly and indirectly involved in several labour disputes in May and June 2015.

In early May 2014, the Swedish Airline Pilots Association (SweALPA) issued an intent-to-strike notice (in Swedish) after negotiations regarding a new collective agreement with the partly government-owned employer Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) had been called off. The disagreement revolved partly around SAS’s plans to start outsourcing work to temporary employment agencies and partly around the company’s demand for its pilots to work more during the summer months. According to a representative from SweALPA, the pilots’ workload is already heavy (in Swedish) and they have only three consecutive weeks of summer vacation. Furthermore, the rate of sickness absence among pilots is significantly higher than the national average (10% as against 4%).

On the same day the strike was about to commence, the partners finally settled on a new collective agreemen (in Swedish). The new agreement met the demands from SAS for increased flexibility; SweALPA reported that they had managed to save their members’ jobs and reduce the total workload on short-distance flights (which had been a priority when entering into negotiations). In summary, both parties were satisfied with the solution. SAS has now reached agreements with three out of four pilot organisations; this means that a majority of SAS pilots are covered by new collective agreements.

In early June, it was announced that 190 SAS employees had taken legal action against their trade union organisation, Unionen (in Swedish). When negotiating a crisis settlement in 2012, Unionen had agreed to severely worsened pension schemes for its members and many cabin crew lost large portions of their earned pensions. Therefore, Unionen is now being sued for overstepping its authority. A representative from Unionen stated that the measures were necessary in order to save SAS from insolvency, and that the agreement was needed in order to save jobs that would otherwise have been lost.

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